Lindsey McDonald’s harsh voice snapped her back into reality.
“I asked how it was that you were certain he was not Mr. Finn’s. You must admit, he looks a great deal like him.”
“He doesn’t look a thing like Riley.”
“He’s blond, Buffy,” Riley cut in. “And you don’t fake it well enough for me to believe you’re a natural blond.”
“I’m not,” Buffy snapped back, glaring at him. “My mother is, and so is everyone on her side of the family.”
“He has my face,” Riley continued, reaching into his pocket and pulling out an old picture of Harrison.
Buffy’s eyes widened in horror. “You’ve been stalking him?” she choked.
Riley shook his head. “No. For several years, we were still friends, remember, Buffy? You sent me pictures.”
“I didn’t know how much of a jerk you were at the time,” Buffy snapped harshly.
“Buffy, I have been thinking about it a lot. I was going back over the old letters you sent me when I was cleaning out my attic, and I realized that it all adds up. The nine months, the blond hair, the face ... he’s mine, Buffy, and I’ve come to claim him.”
“Blond hair does not make him yours, Riley,” Buffy said, choosing her words carefully. “He was conceived on my wedding night. He is mine and Angel’s.”
“Ms. Summers, I would be much obliged if we could settle this out of court,” Lindsey said tightly.
“And I would be much obliged if you would get out of my house,” Buffy snarled in return.
Lindsey stood up. “Why don’t we set up a date for a more formal meeting, with Harrison present.” He looked down at her bulging stomach. “When are you due?”
“March,” she snapped at him, “Now get out.”
Lindsey took out a business card and a pen and scribbled something down, then handed the card to Buffy. “How about the Espresso Pump, January 19th?”
“I have other plans.”
“That’s not your business, but for your information, it’s my birthday, and Angel and I are going out.”
Riley coughed. “I’ll bet you are.”
Buffy glared at him menacingly, then snatched the pen from Lindsey, crossed out the information, and replaced it with her own before handing it back. “We’ll see you at Willow’s office on the 21st. Now get out of my house before I call the police.”
Lindsey nodded, motioning to Riley. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Buffy waited until they had left the house before collapsing onto Angel’s lap in a fit of sobs. “He’s not his, Angel, he’s not his and I don’t know how to prove it.”
Angel opened his mouth to answer, but at that moment everyone rushed down the stairs, all speaking at once.
Harrison looked at his mother questioningly, and she shook her head sadly. “I don’t know, Harrison.”
“Am I ... am I his?”
“No,” Buffy responded vehemently. “You are mine and Angel’s. Not Riley’s.”
“Who is Riley?”
“An old boyfriend.” Buffy bit her lips, scooping up her three year old in her arms. “Hey there, Hunter. You want to stay at Aunt Cordelia’s for a little while?” she asked, glancing at Cordelia, who nodded.
“Yeah!” Hunter shrieked, delighted.
“Are we all going?” Harrison asked, and Buffy nodded.
“Willow, Angel, and I need some time to figure out what to do about this, and I think it would be best if you three aren’t here in case Riley and Lindsey show up again.”
Harrison nodded sharply, looking at the ground. “Okay.”
“Go upstairs and get your bag,” she asked him, and Doyle took Hunter and Hanna up to get clothes for them.
“Man,” Faith murmured, still a little tipsy, “That’s one fucked up mess you got there!”
Buffy eyed Faith wearily. “Thank you, Faith, because you know I couldn’t see that for myself.”
“Anytime, B,” Faith slurred, falling back into Spike’s arms.
Buffy sighed. “Why don’t you guys just ... go ... and we’ll call you, tomorrow ...”
“Want me to stay?” Willow asked quietly.
Buffy shook her head. “No, thanks. Can you just come by tomorrow morning? I think I need a little time with Angel now.”
Willow nodded understandingly, catching Hanna as she tried to totter down the stairs. She kissed Buffy’s cheek, and whispered, “It’s all going to be okay, Buffy. I just know it.”
“I wish I could believe you,” Buffy whispered tearfully. She kissed her three children, and then collapsed back into Angel’s arms again, watching the fleet of people somberly walk out of her house.
Buffy didn’t even have to say anything for Angel to know how scared and upset she was. He took her hand and gently led her towards the stairs, then stopped and picked her up, holding her close to him and whispering terms of endearment in her ear.
The house was quiet in a way it hadn’t been in fourteen years - no friends talking, no baby screaming, no one asking for ice cream or juice. Just the two of them, alone, and the tears that were now swimming in two sets of eyes.
“I’m scared,” Buffy admitted hoarsely when Angel set her down on the bed, curling up into a cramped fetal position.
Angel knelt in front of the fire place and struck a match, dropping it onto the ready-light log inside, then joining Buffy on the bed. He uncurled her and lay her on her back, massaging her spinal cord with both of his large hands.
She sighed, trying to relax, taking deep breaths, but nothing worked. Angel slowly unzipped her top to have better access to the skin and bones beneath, sliding it off her arms. She felt weak and useless, more than she ever had before. What if they took her baby away? The thought was too much to bear, and she began heaving with sobs.
Angel immediately stopped his ministrations and gently lay on top of her so his chest was pressing into her back and his face was right next to hers. “It’s going to be fine,” he vowed, stroking her hair gently. “Just fine.”
Buffy moved so she was next to him, her hand on her enlarged stomach. “Angel, what if they take him away? What if they say I’m a bad mother and take them all away?”
Angel reached down and placed his hand on top of hers on her stomach. “That could never happen. It would be crazy.”
“We live in a crazy world,” she murmured hoarsely.
“Not that crazy.” He tilted her chin up and looked directly into her eyes. “I promise you, Buffy, I PROMISE you that this will clear up and we’ll have our three - four beautiful children with us. We’ll go to the Caribbean right after the new one is born and have a wonderful time, okay?”
“O-Okay,” Buffy agreed softly, closing her eyes and curling herself closer to Angel. “I love you more than anything ... promise me you’ll never leave me.”
“I promise,” Angel swore, and Buffy knew he wasn’t lying.
Buffy was more composed when the meeting time rolled around - she had just celebrated her 35th birthday, her sonogram had told her she was having a little girl, and Willow and Angel were being calm and collected about the whole matter. So when she showed up at Willow’s office in brand new maternity clothes, Angel and Harrison by her side, she felt much better than at the previous, unexpected meeting.
Lindsey and Riley showed up a few minutes later, sitting across from the four others.
“I know this is not very professional, not at all how these things are usually done,” Lindsey started off by saying, “But my client has expressed a great interest to settle things out of court, as I said before. I hope you will be willing to cooperate.”
“Yes,” Buffy gritted out. “I think that’s a great idea.”
Lindsey smiled wickedly. “Great. Let’s proceed then. Mr. Finn?”
Riley slowly moved his eyes across the four people sitting across from him. “As I’ve said,” he began in a composed manner, completely unlike the Riley that Buffy remembered, “I have plenty of reason to believe that Harrison belongs to me. But --”
“Why come forward with this now?” Buffy asked sharply.
“I told you, it only occurred to me when I was cleaning out the attic and looking at what you had written before. Buffy, we made love in April, and nine months --”
Buffy cut in on him again. “We had sex,” she corrected shortly. “Protected.”
“Protection isn’t always enough,” he told her, his voice sad, and she snickered.
“In this case it was. It doesn’t make SENSE, Riley!” Buffy told him, her voice pleading. “I’m sorry things went down so horribly, but it doesn’t make SENSE!”
“Ms. Summers, may I ask you a personal question?” Lindsey looked directly at her.
“I don’t suppose that ‘no’ is an applicable answer, so shoot.”
Lindsey smiled grimly. “Did you menstruate at any time between when you last had intercourse with Mr. Finn and when your first son was born?”
Buffy blushed hotly, but forced herself to answer the question at Willow’s nod. “No, I didn’t.”
“So therefore, it is quite possible that this is a result of impregnation by Mr. Finn.”
“It’s a result of it not being the right time,” Buffy corrected shortly. She sighed. “I don’t know what you’re trying to get me to confess to, but it’s not going to happen.” She sucked in a breath. “I know, without a doubt in my heart, that Harrison is Angel’s son. Only Angel’s son. Just look at his eyes.” She looked from Harrison to Angel, her eyes, though shining with tears, also sparkling with love for her family.
“If hair is not a basis to believe that he is Mr. Finn’s son, why should eyes be basis to say he’s not?”
“You don’t know me anymore. You don’t know anything about me, or about my life, Riley. Either of you. Life screwed you over, Riley, I’m sorry for that. That happens every now and then. You didn’t get married, didn’t have kids, and that’s too bad, but I WON’T be put in the middle of your mid-life crisis.”
Willow took over then. “If you don’t mind, Mr. McDonald, I would like to ask some questions now myself.”
Lindsey nodded curtly. “Proceed.”
Willow turned to Harrison, ruffling his hair affectionately. “Harrison, do you believe that Angel is your true father?”
Harrison’s voice was soft and scared as he spoke. “Yes.”
“Have you ever been given any reason to believe otherwise?”
Harrison shook his head. “No.”
“If it turned out he wasn’t, would you still consider him your father?”
Harrison looked from Buffy to Angel almost fearfully. “Yes.”
Willow turned back to Lindsey and Riley. “The child hath spoken,” she proclaimed over-dramatically. “I don’t care if your petty crap is what you really believe or not, but regardless, you have to look at the child’s best interest. Angel is the man that Harrison knows as ‘Daddy’, he is the man that has raised him and been there for him. If he mattered that much to you, you should have been there. He’s not yours, Riley, and even if he was, Angel is the one who has always been there for him. The one who taught him to ride a bike, who took him camping in the rain, who taught him how to say ‘I love you’ in Gaelic. Angel is the one who held Buffy’s hand when she gave birth, Angel is the one who makes love to her at night. Angel is the one who is always there - and who always has been. And Angel is not selfish. You’ve never been there, Riley, and so help me God you never will be.”
“Was that a threat against my client?” Lindsey asked coolly.
“That was a promise,” Willow negated firmly, a wicked smiled crossing her face. She stood up, one hand on her belly, the other on her chair, and turned to her friends. “C’mon, let’s go. I’ll treat you to lunch.”
Buffy didn’t look at Riley and Lindsey as she stood tall, following the rest of her family out.
Lindsey watched with rage in his eyes. “This isn’t over, Ms. Summers. I promise you that.”
Buffy didn’t turn back.
“So ... what’s good here?” Buffy asked quickly, barely looking at her menu.
Willow frowned. “Buffy, this is your favorite restaurant.”
“Oh. Yeah, you’re right. What’s good here?”
“Uh, the salmon ... the salmon is good.”
Buffy nodded, then turned to the waiter. “I’ll have the chicken.”
“Baked or fried, ma’am?”
“Just chicken!” Buffy cried in frustration.
The waiter nodded quickly, writing down her request. “What about a drink? Would you like a bottle of chilled wine?” he asked the group.
“Are you trying to kill my baby?” Buffy asked, her voice rising. “Is that what you want? Do you want my children, too? You can’t have her! You can’t HAVE her!”
The waiter backed away from the table as Angel touched her arm gently, trying to calm her down. “He was just asking,” he assured her softly, then turned to the waiter. “Just waters, please.”
The waiter nodded, not taking the menu from Buffy as he hurried off.
“He didn’t take my menu,” she muttered, frowning. “I wonder why not?”
Willow, Harrison, and Angel didn’t respond.
“So,” Willow began, trying to make small talk, “Have you chosen a name for the baby?” She glanced over at Harrison, who, though normally outgoing and cheerful, was sitting quiet and reserved.
“I liked Hope,” Buffy whispered quietly. “But now I don’t know.”
Willow felt her heart break. Damn Riley for doing this to her and her family. “I like Hope,” she seconded quietly, smiling. “It follows the ‘H’ tradition.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed softly. “I guess so.”
Harrison looked at Willow questioningly. “What about you, Aunt Willow?” His voice could barely be heard. “What do you think?”
Willow broke into a wide grin at the question, despite all the tension. “Oz and I were thinking of Adrian or David.”
“Those are nice,” Buffy agreed conversationally. She smiled as the waiter set down the food. “Thanks.”
“Quite welcome,” he told her nervously.
She looked at her plate of chicken and frowned. “Didn’t I order salmon?”
Part 3 Back to Megg's fic